Orleans native Chad Bush will be part of the inaugural Ottawa Fury FC team that will kick off its North American Soccer League home schedule on Saturday, April 19 at Carleton University. Photo: Dan Plouffe
By Josh Wegman
Seven years ago, he was a wide-eyed youngster, lucky enough to stand alongside the stars of the FIFA U20 World Cup at Lansdowne Park as a flag bearer.
Soon enough, Orleans native Chad Bush will be back on the pitch at the rejuvenated TD Place as a member of the inaugural Ottawa Fury FC pro soccer team, with hoards of aspiring local players watching on.
The Fury FC goalkeeper recalls some words of wisdom he received from a former summer camp coach from around the time the world’s best junior soccer players came to town: “Every day you don’t, the other guy does.”
That simple philosophy stuck with Bush and has now propelled him to the professional level, still at the tender age of 19.
“Every time I’m thinking of taking a day off, I think to myself, ‘what would the other guy do?’” highlights the past Fury youth player. “He wants to get there, I want to get there, so I’m going to go out and work even harder.”
Bush heads into his first pro season coming off an astonishing breakout campaign with the Fury’s USL Premier Development League team last year. The youngest player to ever earn the league’s goalkeeper of the year award recorded nine shutouts and allowed just one goal en route to the club’s first regular-season conference title.
However, the sparkling resumé doesn’t mean he’ll immediately star when the Fury kick off their North American Soccer League season April 12 in Fort Lauderdale, followed by their home opener April 19 at Carleton University (the team will move to Lansdowne once it’s ready for the second half of their season, post World Cup, in July).
The rookie is expected to take a backseat to some of the other veteran keepers on the Fury’s roster. With the most experience – including time in Puerto Rico, Thailand and Sweden – 26-year-old Devala Gorrick is expected to handle the starting duties, while 22-year-old Marcel Debellis, who spent last season with Italian Serie B side Ascoli, is also in the mix.
“Right now, it’s about taking everything in with these other veterans. Anytime they see I need help, they’ll be there,” Bush indicates. “It’s a learning relationship, but it’s also a good one.”
Also providing a guiding hand is a familiar face, goalkeeper coach David Bellemare, who’s worked with Bush since age 13.
“(Bellemare) has been instrumental in my development,” Bush signals.
“Chad has always had all the physical abilities to be a good goalkeeper,” notes the keeper coach of 20 years. “The last couple of years we’ve really been working on the mental side of the game and being ready to do the job he needs to do.”
Wide-ranging path in local soccer
Bush began his soccer playing with Gloucester, then later Cumberland, before joining the Fury at age 15 and earning U17 tournament all-star honours at the the Super Y-League North American finals.
This prompted the former Louis-Riel high school sports-études student to play for the Toronto FC Academy where he was surrounded by a “professional environment” and “top-of-the-line coaches,” he details.
After two years at TFC, Bush had a brief stint playing for the NCAA’s Duke University Blue Devils before returning home to Ottawa and getting on the pro path.
A career highlight along the way came in 2011 when he represented Canada at the FIFA U17 World Cup in Mexico, which the hosts won in front of a crowd of 98,943 for the final.
“I want to do this full-time, I want to play in big-pressure games,” Bush remembers thinking.
The future looks bright for Bush, although the road and final destination in his career remains a mystery at present.
“I try to just take it one day at a time, but playing in Europe has always been a dream of mine,” says the 6’ 2” keeper. “But I wouldn’t be opposed to staying here for the majority of my career. It’s a great place and the coaching has been fantastic.”
Second Ottawa native joins Fury FC
There will be another player with deep Ottawa roots competing for the Fury this season. Kanata native Kenny Caceros came to training camp on trial and cracked the Fury’s roster.
“I couldn’t be happier to have the opportunity to play with a club that I have spent most of my career developing in,” says Caceros, who joined the Fury’s youth academy in 2003. “I have given everything I have in me to earn a spot on this team and I’m thrilled and honoured that I have the opportunity to represent my hometown club.”
The 25-year-old midfielder most recently dressed for the other Canadian NASL team in Edmonton. Prior to that, he’d played for the former Capital City FC Canadian Soccer League club following a career with Syracuse University and summers with Fury PDL.
Building support for new pro club
Caceros began his career at the Kanata Soccer Club – now fused into the West Ottawa Soccer Club, which was recently unveiled as the first local club to establish a formal partnership with Fury FC, an agreement that includes plans for joint technical player and coach sessions and special access to Fury FC games for WOSC members.
“It’s a very enticing bundle,” says WOSC CEO Bjorn Osieck. “We’re very excited to welcome professional soccer to this city.”
For Osieck, the driving desire for establishing the partnership was to help build a soccer culture locally.
“We often lament that in Canada we have a very flourishing hockey culture but we don’t necessarily feel we have the same equivalent football culture,” notes the German-born administrator. “Whether you want to be critical about it or not, we need to support professional soccer to succeed in this market. If professional soccer succeeds, all soccer succeeds.”
For Fury FC, a challenge will be to galvanize support from local clubs, some of whom haven’t traditionally owned the coziest relationship with the Fury since the organization arrived around a decade ago.
“Hopefully (the WOSC partnership) is a sign of things to come,” Fury owner John Pugh indicates. “WOSC are one of those clubs that recognize they can take a player so far, but if that player has the ability to go farther, they’re going to have to go somewhere else. If you get that, we can have a very healthy partnership.
“If someone goes to them, comes to us, and then goes somewhere else, then we’re all celebrating. It’s a question of ‘player-first.’ If all the decisions you make are about the player, rather than the club or the team or the coach, you usually make the right decisions.”
Fury step aside in boys’ OPDL
After originally being granted a franchise in the new standards-based Ontario Player Development League, set to kick off its first season at the under-13 level this summer, the Fury decided to withdraw their boys’ entry after consulting with Canadian Soccer Association about the role they’d like to see pro teams play in male player development.
“It became clear we shouldn’t be playing against these teams. These teams should be providers of players to us. That’s why we withdrew our team,” explains Push, who also thought four Ottawa franchises (along with Ottawa South United, Nepean and West Ottawa) was too many.
Not being in competition against local clubs for male players (the Fury’s girls’ team remains in the OPDL) could be helpful in building more friendships, although Osieck and Pugh wouldn’t close the door on the possibility that the clubs could collaborate to enter a youth team in future years, although both also note it’s still early in their relationship and more building blocks need to put in place.
Pugh believes the biggest impact in developing support for Fury FC will be once the community sees the quality of soccer played by the NASL club, and should they defeat Edmonton in the first round of the Amway Canadian Championship and get a home match against Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer, that would send an even louder message.
“We need all the clubs behind us to make this thing a success,” Pugh maintains. “We need those people to come out and watch. They’re a big part of the audience and we want those kids to see a higher standard of soccer and say, ‘Hey, I want to play there one day.’
“It’s great to see Chad Bush and Kenny Caceros, and players from our PDL team now playing for Fury FC – that’s what it’s all about.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t expect the whole universe to change overnight. Perhaps some people don’t agree totally right now, but I think they’ll come on side eventually.”
—with files from Dan Plouffe